By A. Cory Maloy
May 24, 2013

Why the New Boy Scout Membership Policy is a Big Win for Youth

(This blog post originally appeared on Cory Maloy’s Blog)

It has been a big week for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). On May 23, the voting members of the National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction of its membership policy denying membership to youth based on sexual orientation. The change will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

I believe the change in the membership policy is a big win for everyone involved – especially for the youth. It lets all young men participate in Scouting. Regardless of background, personal beliefs or sexual orientation, young men will always benefit from the values and morals the Scout Oath and Law helps instill in them.

The single largest BSA chartering partner – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – agrees with the policy change, which aligns with the Church’s own policy regarding sexual orientation. In a statement released to the public and news media, the Church states:

“The Church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: ‘”young men … who agree to abide by Church standards” are “welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate.” This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been – and is not now – a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.”

 Imagine for a moment, a young man of the Church confides with his Bishop he is wondering about his sexual orientation and believes he may be homosexual, but has not acted upon those feelings. This young man could participate in all church activities, hold and honor his Priesthood callings and be in good standing throughout the Church. While on the other hand, under the old membership policy, this same young man was technically not permitted to participate in his Scout Troop.

The BSA’s new policy aligns itself well with the Church’s long-standing policy, which focuses less on sexual orientation and more on abiding by good and moral standards. The new BSA policy will not deny “membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference,” but it also reiterates, “Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”

Likewise, the Church’s statement reiterated its standards in its statement saying, “These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and include abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and to protecting and strengthening boys and young men.”

The issue of same sex attraction has been a divisive one that has been aimed squarely at the BSA. With the new membership policy in place, the BSA can now get back to doing what it has always done and will continue to do; implement its mission to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

Likewise, the Utah National Parks Council in its own statement stated it will “continue to work closely with the BSA and its chartering partners as plans are developed for implementation of the policy change. The Utah National Parks Council remains dedicated to its leadership role in the BSA to provide the resources, funding, activities, training and programs needed to give all youth, volunteer leaders and BSA units the greatest experience possible.”

Now that this week is over, let’s all go for a hike. It’s beautiful out there!

Additional links:

Boy Scouts of America: http://www.scouting.org

Utah National Parks Council: http://www.utahscouts.org

Mormon Newsroom: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org

Mormons and Gays: http://www.mormonsandgays.org

Author: A. Cory Maloy |

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3 thoughts on “Why the New Boy Scout Membership Policy is a Big Win for Youth

  1. dave

    Your example is not the new policy. Your example is that a young man confides in his Bishop that he may be struggling with same sex attraction. The policy of the Boy Scouts is if the boy comes out and is open and notorious about his gay orientation we must let him in. That is very different. I am VERY sure your example has already been happening…..and rightly so. However to be blatantly saying you are gay is an entirely different story.

    I am sorry I am struggling with this new policy. At this point I don’t want my son to be renewed automatically by the church without my permission and will struggle to accept young men assignments due to the church automatically renewing my membership

    Reply
    1. A. Cory Maloy Post author

      Hi Dave,

      Thank you for your comment. I believe the most important thing to remember from both the Church’s statement and the wording of the new policy is the emphasis on keeping standards regardless of sexual orientation. The new membership policy clearly states, “Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (2) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”

      My example was to show the dilemma young men and their bishops may have faced under the old membership policy, which in theory was quite the dilemma. The new policy better aligns with the long-standing policy of the Church and addresses your concerns of ‘open and notorious’ where it says, “…demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others…”

      I personally hope that you and your family will remain actively engaged in the Scouting program realizing that all youth can benefit from the values, morals and ideals of Scouting.

      Reply
  2. Jim H

    Thank you for this blog posting. I agree this policy change is a good thing for the BSA and for the LDS church.

    As LDS church leaders have done more and more in the last few years to encourage members of the church to be more loving and inclusive of gay people, and particularly gay members of the church, I have seen a lot of my fellow church members struggle with the guidance from church leaders. When you grew up believing in old ideas that gay people are dangerous, or that being gay is a choice, or that you need to protect your kids from gay people, it is difficult to let go of those ideas, even when the church leaders you believe in tell you differently.

    Society, as a whole, now agrees that being gay is not a choice. Even President Hinckley and Elder Oaks have said so. Society as a whole agrees that gay people should be included the same as everyone else. As Elder D. Todd Christofferson said about gay members of the LDS church, we believe in a doctrine of inclusion, not exclusion.

    It will be a struggle for a lot of members of the church to accept this guidance from church leaders because it is always hard to let go of old beliefs. But it is the right thing to do.

    I hope all those who are threatening to keep their sons out of scouts over this issue will realize that their old beliefs should not be used as an excuse to deprive their sons of some of the best experiences of their young adult lives. Scouting is one of our country’s most noble traditions. Your son deserves to have these great experiences, and be part of this tradition.

    Reply

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